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Jeremiah 14-17 Listen
1 The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the dearth.
2 Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up.
3 And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads.
4 Because the ground is chapt, for there was no rain in the earth, the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads.
5 Yea, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it, because there was no grass.
6 And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass.
7 O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name’s sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee.
8 O the hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night?
9 Why shouldest thou be as a man astonied, as a mighty man that cannot save? yet thou, O LORD, art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name; leave us not.
10 Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins.
11 Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good.
12 When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.
13 Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place.
14 Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.
15 Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.
16 And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them, them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them.
17 Therefore thou shalt say this word unto them; Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease: for the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow.
18 If I go forth into the field, then behold the slain with the sword! and if I enter into the city, then behold them that are sick with famine! yea, both the prophet and the priest go about into a land that they know not.
19 Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul lothed Zion? why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? we looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble!
20 We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee.
21 Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us.
22 Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.
There's typically not an abundance of rainfall in Israel anyway, much like the rainfall averages of states in America, west of the Mississippi River, like Arizona, Nevada, etc. Drought was not an infrequent occurrence back then, along with the famine that resulted. Nonetheless, the people always felt that a drought was some sort of a message from God. So, in the midst of a drought they would pray and sacrifice.
Let's get an overview of the exchange between God and Jeremiah in this chapter:
The only problem here is that they did not turn away from their false gods and proclaim faith in the one and only true God. In verses 7-9, Jeremiah prays for his people despite their rebellion against God. However, we have another interesting word from God to Jeremiah in verse 11, "Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good." We keep seeing this lesson in the Book of Jeremiah, and I believe it's a strong lesson for us today: It is not proper to pray for the prosperity of Believers who are rejecting God's counsel.
Jeremiah had another nagging problem - false prophets. These were politically correct guys (and maybe gals) who prophesied to the people that relief was on the way, that things were going to be okay. God tells Jeremiah that they'll get their just due when people realize that they had been intentionally deceived by these false prophets. So...get the picture here: Famine was in Israel, the people began to call upon God, but the people refused to forsake their worship of false gods. Jeremiah called upon the people to repent and turn to the worship of God and only God; he was a minority voice. There were simultaneously an endless supply of false prophets who told the people that times would get better. Seeking positive news, the people chose to believe the false prophets rather than ol' doomsday-preachin' Jeremiah. Here's what God told Jeremiah in verse 14, "Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name." It's clear: The first step to avoiding judgment from God is to obey God. Nothing else will do.
Jeremiah further expresses his grief over Judah in verses 17-18. Then in 19-22, Jeremiah continues to plead with God for a stay of judgment against Judah. We'll see God's reply to Jeremiah's plea in chapter 15.
No turning back now! (Jeremiah 15:1-9)
1 Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.
2 And it shall come to pass, if they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth? then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith the LORD; Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity.
3 And I will appoint over them four kinds, saith the LORD: the sword to slay, and the dogs to tear, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the earth, to devour and destroy.
4 And I will cause them to be removed into all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah king of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem.
5 For who shall have pity upon thee, O Jerusalem? or who shall bemoan thee? or who shall go aside to ask how thou doest?
6 Thou hast forsaken me, saith the LORD, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting.
7 And I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy my people, since they return not from their ways.
8 Their widows are increased to me above the sand of the seas: I have brought upon them against the mother of the young men a spoiler at noonday: I have caused him to fall upon it suddenly, and terrors upon the city.
9 She that hath borne seven languisheth: she hath given up the ghost; her sun is gone down while it was yet day: she hath been ashamed and confounded: and the residue of them will I deliver to the sword before their enemies, saith the LORD.
At the end of chapter 14, we saw Jeremiah pleading with God on behalf of his people. Chapter 15 begins with God's reply to Jeremiah's plea.
Not even famous personalities from the past (like Moses or Samuel, verse 1) can thwart the judgment of God on Judah. Severe judgment is coming because of their sin of turning their backs on God. The last good king in Judah was Josiah. Jeremiah prophesied during the reigns of the last 5 kings of Judah: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah. Judah fell completely under Zedekiah.
King Manasseh's mention in verse 4 is significant. He followed the reign of his father, the good King Hezekiah, but Manasseh was very evil, as was his son Amon. Josiah followed his father, Amon, with his reforms toward God. However, Josiah only provided a temporary reprieve from God's judgment.
25 And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.
26 Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal.
27 And the LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there.
After Josiah's death, there were no more good kings. Manasseh is credited here with the evilness that kicked off the final rebellion of Judah, even though Josiah had followed God and had instituted some reforms. Let's face it, the lingering effect of the godless leadership of Manasseh still plagued Judah. Because of the wicked rule of Manasseh, deportation of Judah's influential people would follow. Jeremiah's word from God continues in verse 7, "I will destroy my people, since they return not from their ways."
Jeremiah complains about his working conditions (Jeremiah 15:10-21)
10 Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me.
11 The LORD said, Verily it shall be well with thy remnant; verily I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil and in the time of affliction.
12 Shall iron break the northern iron and the steel?
13 Thy substance and thy treasures will I give to the spoil without price, and that for all thy sins, even in all thy borders.
14 And I will make thee to pass with thine enemies into a land which thou knowest not: for a fire is kindled in mine anger, which shall burn upon you.
15 O LORD, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke.
16 Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.
17 I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation.
18 Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?
19 Therefore thus saith the LORD, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them.
20 And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brasen wall: and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the LORD.
21 And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.
Beginning here in verse 10, Jeremiah follows God's decree upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem with a little bit of complaining about his own set of personal circumstances. His moaning continues down through verse 18. God addresses Jeremiah's complaint in verses 19-21.
"These people, my own people, don't like me," Jeremiah complained. Let's face it, when all you do is prophesy that the people to whom you minister are going to crash and burn, you're not likely to be very popular. On top of that, the false prophets continually told the people exactly what they wanted to hear - a message of relief and prosperity. The people loved them. How much does this sound just like politics of today? What's interesting here is that God does not offer any relief for Jeremiah. Telling the truth is a tough job, but it was the job God called Jeremiah to do.
Jeremiah's complaining to God is seen beginning in verse 10 where he laments his own birth. He is assured by God that the "northern iron" (aka Babylonians) will overcome Judah just as Jeremiah had been prophesying. He is assured by God that even Judah's enemies would eventually come asking for his counsel. In verse 15, Jeremiah asks for revenge upon those of his own people who persecute him. He treasured God's word (verse 16), and yet he was all alone (verse 17). Yet, Jeremiah has the promise of God in verse 21, "And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible."
1 The word of the LORD came also unto me, saying,
2 Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.
3 For thus saith the LORD concerning the sons and concerning the daughters that are born in this place, and concerning their mothers that bare them, and concerning their fathers that begat them in this land;
4 They shall die of grievous deaths; they shall not be lamented; neither shall they be buried; but they shall be as dung upon the face of the earth: and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine; and their carcases shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.
5 For thus saith the LORD, Enter not into the house of mourning, neither go to lament nor bemoan them: for I have taken away my peace from this people, saith the LORD, even lovingkindness and mercies.
6 Both the great and the small shall die in this land: they shall not be buried, neither shall men lament for them, nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them:
7 Neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother.
8 Thou shalt not also go into the house of feasting, to sit with them to eat and to drink.
9 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will cause to cease out of this place in your eyes, and in your days, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride.
10 And it shall come to pass, when thou shalt shew this people all these words, and they shall say unto thee, Wherefore hath the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?
11 Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the LORD, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law;
12 And ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me:
13 Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night; where I will not shew you favour.
Jeremiah's complaining in chapter 15 didn't take. God instructs him to pour it on even thicker than before. Look those Jews in the eyes and tell them that, because of the spiritual adultery committed by their fathers and them, they are headed for certain destruction. But that's not all the bad news for Jeremiah. God forbids him to marry. The normal state of existence for a Jewish man during that time was to have a wife. However, the urgency of the situation in Judah during this time was such that God told Jeremiah that he could not be encumbered with the responsibility of caring for a wife. Furthermore, we see that Jeremiah was forbidden by God to even socialize with his Jewish brethren - or even go to their funerals (verses 4-5). He had to be in a position to warn the people of the consequences of their sin without the constraints of friendship with the wicked Jewish populace. When they ask Jeremiah why he considers them to be so wicked, he's to point out that it's because their fathers were wicked, and they themselves are even more wicked (verses 10-12). And here's that unpopular warning in verse 13, "Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night; where I will not shew you favour."
Finally, a promise of restoration (Jeremiah 16:14-21)
14 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;
15 But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.
16 Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the LORD, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.
17 For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes.
18 And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things.
19 O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.
20 Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?
21 Therefore, behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know mine hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is The LORD.
The hunters and fishermen (verse 16) are the pagan conquerors who were to be Gods instruments for chastising Israel. Yeah, but the people were really looking for a message from Jeremiah that would tell them that things were going to improve - not a message that Judah would collapse before things improved. However, Jeremiah didn't make the news, he just reported it. And that news was not good as seen in verse 18, "And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things." Judah would be judged for their wickedness...period.
This section ends with a restoration which surely is Messianic based upon our knowledge of history. The Gentiles who overrun Judah will realize that their gods are false. Notice verse 21, "Therefore, behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know mine hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is The LORD." That, in fact, will happen in Revelation 19:11-21 (see notes) at the Battle of Armageddon. While Judah did return to the land from their Babylonian exile beginning in 535 B.C., this reference seems to speak of a time where the Messiah is in control. The notion of nations coming to Judah at some future point to seek the true God, is found also in Isaiah 2:2-4 (see notes); Micah 4:1-7 (see notes); Habakkuk 2:14 (see notes); all of these references are clearly Messianic.
The people of Judah: big-time sinners (Jeremiah 17:1-13)
1 The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars;
2 Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills.
3 O my mountain in the field, I will give thy substance and all thy treasures to the spoil, and thy high places for sin, throughout all thy borders.
4 And thou, even thyself, shalt discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee; and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not: for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever.
5 Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.
6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.
7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.
8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
11 As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.
12 A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.
13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.
Their sin was indelibly written on their hearts. The metaphor used here of the iron pen with the diamond tip paints them as deeply entrenched in their God-rejecting, idolatrous ways; they would not turn back. There are a couple (yea, even three) general-use verses in this passage. Notice the warning of verse 5, "Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD." And why is that? Look at verse 9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" That's that ol' Adamic nature at work in each person (see notes on Romans 5:12-21). But if you're looking for some consolation, consult verse 7, "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is." Verse 13 makes it very clear that it is because of Judah's rejection of God that God has rejected them.
Jeremiah: Lord, I could use a little vindication here (Jeremiah 17:14-18)
14 Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.
15 Behold, they say unto me, Where is the word of the LORD? let it come now.
16 As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee: neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee.
17 Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil.
18 Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded: let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed: bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction.
Hey! Jeremiah is thinking (and saying) exactly what I would be thinking and saying in his situation, "It surely would be nice if you would go ahead and show them that they're wrong and I'm right." These people are saying to Jeremiah in verse 15, "God's judgment? Bring it on!" Hey! they're mocking him! As a matter of fact, it looks like Jeremiah is pretty fed up with his rebellious people in verse 18, "Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded: let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed: bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction." So much for the kind and gentle approach to prophesying. People today might think Jeremiah a bit too harsh and outspoken to have an effective ministry. Listen; Jeremiah spoke what God told him to speak; it wasn't a popular message.
There's no question, because of the taunting of Jeremiah by those wicked people, Jeremiah is asking God to go ahead and vindicate him. By the way, Jeremiah's vindication is coming, but on God's timetable, not Jeremiah's.
Another tough job for Jeremiah (Jeremiah 17:19-27)
19 Thus said the LORD unto me; Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem;
20 And say unto them, Hear ye the word of the LORD, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates:
21 Thus saith the LORD; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem;
22 Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.
23 But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction.
24 And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the LORD, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein;
25 Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever.
26 And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the LORD.
27 But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.
The people of Judah/Jerusalem already ignore him - even despise him for his negative messages. Prophesying is tough work. Well, God gives Jeremiah another tough assignment; go to the gates of Jerusalem and rag the people for forsaking the observance of the Sabbath day. This observance was uniquely Jewish; it separated them from the rest of the pagan world, but they had forsaken its observance. His message: if you don't listen, fire will devour this place. Did they listen? No!
Look! This is fascinating - another offer from God if these corrupt folks will repent. Look at verses 24-27. Do right by God and he'll fix everything! Remember, however, Isaiah had prophesied 100 or so years earlier that they would not repent...and they didn't. Isaiah prophesied Jerusalem's fall to the Babylonians in Isaiah 39 (see notes).